The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Artist Interview
The continuing expansion of the world of Saburo Teshigawara, an artist who has already left a big footprint in contemporary dance
Here To Here (1995)
Photo: Dominik Mentzos

Photo: Bengt Wanselius
Here To Here
Here To Here
Here To Here
Here To Here
Can you tell us in some specific terms what you actually teach in your workshops?
    As living beings, we can’t live without “breathing.” And we can’t breathe without the “air” around us. In this sense, we can think of these mechanisms, including the air surrounding us, as the “body” in a holistic sense. Also, “gravity” acts on the body. We start from by getting the workshop participants to have a full experience of the “consciousness” that feels this gravity and the body and also the act of “breathing.” I tell them that there is no need to think about what memories the body may have, what they might be thinking now, or how to understand this piece of music. I tell them, let’s just concentrate on feeling our own bodies. Before understanding there is feeling, and from there it is possible to proceed toward conscious understanding.
    In specific terms, we begin with simply concentrating on breathing. “Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out,” we repeat. When I tell people to concentrate on their breathing, most people tend to close their eyes, but if you close your eyes your sense of balance suffers and your consciousness tends to focus more on sound. So, we do the breathing exercise with our eyes open. But, after a while people begin to get bored. They begin to think, “What is there in just breathing?” When they begin to get irritated like that they naturally want to do something different, and that is when things get interesting.
    Then I change to, “Breathe in, breathe in again, you can still breathe in more.” And then I tell them to exhale slowly, very slowly. By doing this, I get them to be conscious of the “breadth of breath.” After having them exhale as much as they can I tell them to begin inhaling slowly. Just as a ball thrown up into the air defines a parabolic curve and falls again without stopping, our breathing is basically a ceaseless cycle that goes on unconsciously, but I tell them to be aware of the moment when they start to inhale and when they start to exhale. In the process, that becomes a rhythm. And, it can also be called a form of movement. Them, we use this breathing [rhythm] as a guide to stretch out the arms in unison with the breathing.
    In ballet it is called preparation when you step back before a movement, and there is that type mechanism in all movements. For example, before breathing in you can do a slight exhale, or do a slight inhale before exhaling. In your couple actions in this way, you get a dramatic sensation as loosening yourself.
    In the workshops we focus exclusively on this type of breathing and movement. Removing the expressive psychological device of saying, “That’s enough,” after breathing out fully, we first concentrate exclusively on breathing. Then we coordinate the breathing with movements and begin to harmonize them. The reason that Stewart became able to walk alone is that we had him practice coordinating breathing with the movement cycle of the heel, arch and toes leaving the ground in succession in the walking process. For him, breathing has become a source of harmonization, and taking away breathing would be like taking away a blind person’s cane or handrail. It is not as if they are putting all these things together consciously, but they have an “automatism” that enables them to do it automatically. Once they are able to consciously control their breathing, it possible then for them to add their own conditions, or coefficients if you will, and put together their own methodologies.
    I believe that deep in the body there is a final “sense” that remains after a process of differentiating something out. I enjoy trying to discover that sense, and when I am working with young people I find that there is still more to discover. There is never enough time but, I believe that I have a [movement] language sense—my method—that is different from dance until now, and I want to continue pursuing it. Be it ballet or be it Noh theater, these are not things that any one person as created. They are traditions that have been created over long periods of time. When I talked about this quest of mine with a journalist from Liberation, he said I sounded like a Don Quixote (laughs). Someone in pursuit of the “endless dream.” But, for me that is a very positive thing.

Can you tell us something about your plans from here on?
    September we will be presenting Here To Here at the Sainokuni Saitama Arts Theater, and in December I will be working on in a new play at Theatre X in Tokyo’s Ryogoku district. It is based on a text by the Austrian writer Robert Musil, and I will be directing and playing the lead role in it. Musil is a very well known thinker and novelist in Europe and the script we will use is based on his work Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften (The Man Without Qualities). It is not that I am especially set on doing drama, but I want to experiment with what can be done with only the voice and body. I believe this performance will be quite different from anything I have done before, in terms of how the body is used.
    I don’t really want to be choreographing dances right now. I believe that what I can do as an artist will continue to develop based on my individual ideas, but what I am most interested in now is not just that, but the parts that do not come from the individual, or how to deal with the parts that cannot be done by the individual alone. Earlier, I wrote that I want to be involved in a revolution that will take a thousand years. That is not an exaggeration—although the words may be (laughs). That is what I am really interested in.
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